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The U.S. and Iran: Birds of a Feather

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Message Gene C. Gerard
Given the Bush administration's rhetoric regarding the Iranian government you wouldn't think the two have much, if anything, in common. In his 2002 State of the Union address President Bush referred to Iran as part of an "axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world." And he criticized the Iranian government's efforts to "repress the Iranian people's hope of freedom." This week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testified before the Senate regarding the administration's request for $75 million to help further democracy in Iran, in which she stated that Iran was under the control of a "radical regime." Yet the Bush administration recently went out of its way to support an Iranian initiative to deny access to gay and lesbian organizations within the United Nations.

Both the U.S. and Iranian governments serve on the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Two international gay and lesbian rights organizations recently applied to the council for consultative status. Holding this status is the only way for non-governmental organizations to participate in discussions among member states in the United Nations (UN). Approximately 3,000 non-governmental organizations presently hold this status.

Iran's government moved to have the gay and lesbian organizations' applications rejected without discussion, which is largely unheard of at the UN. Although France and Germany voted against the rejection, the U.S. government sided with Iran, and was joined by Cameroon and Zimbabwe, in successfully denying UN access to the gay rights organizations. Instead of creating a coalition of the respectful, the U.S. government help create a coalition of the hateful. In doing so, the Bush administration joined forces with some of the most repressive regimes in modern history.

Under Iranian law, engaging in homosexual relations is illegal and punishable by death. And merely being gay is a crime punishable by being receiving 100 lashes. According to a report by the French newspaper Le Monde, in 1999 Iran killed ten men for homosexuality by stoning them. In 2000, 16 men were stoned to death. And in 2001, 12 men were stoned for being gay. In July of last year the Iranian regime was the subject of international criticism after it hung two teenage boys who were accused of being gay. According to one study, the Iranian government has executed over 4,000 men for homosexuality since 1979.

The African nation of Cameroon has an equally callused history regarding the treatment of homosexuals. Under Cameroon's harsh legal system being gay is a crime punishable by a prison sentence of six months to five years. In May of last year 11 men were arrested in Yaounde, Cameroon on the suspicion of being gay. They are still in jail today and likely will be for several more years. The Cameroon government also condones a widespread police practice of anally sodomizing men arrested for suspicion of being gay.

In Zimbabwe homosexuality is illegal and men convicted of being gay are subject to a ten year prison term. The nation's president, Robert Mugabe, has long been an outspoken critic of homosexuals and gay rights. In a 1995 speech President Mugabe stated, "I don't believe they [homosexuals] have any rights at all" and "these people behave worse than dogs and pigs." Later that year Mr. Mugabe encouraged the public to hunt down homosexuals, and many gay men were beaten and had their homes fire-bombed. In 2002, after rumors circulated that homosexuals were serving in his administration, President Mugabe ordered the state's intelligence agency to spy on public officials who were alleged to be homosexuals. No doubt this involved eavesdropping on their telephone calls and e-mails.

After five years in office most Americans understand that Mr. Bush is not a leader, or a man, who can be taken for his word. Time after time the rhetoric of his administration has only vaguely, at best, resembled the actions of his administration. In 2002 Mr. Bush declared, "There are no second-class citizens in the human race. I carry this commitment in my soul." But by siding with Iran and preventing gay rights organizations from attending UN meetings and conferences, President Bush sent the clear, distinct message that gay people do not merit the same consideration as everyone else.

At the same time, the Bush administration lent credence and support to a loathsome regime. In her testimony before the Senate last week, Secretary of State Rice complained about efforts by Iran's government to restrict the freedoms of the Iranian people and to deny them their basic human rights. President Bush has previously stated that the Iranian regime "poses a grave and growing danger." Given the administration's contempt for the Iranian government, it's difficult to understand why it chose to side with Iran and prevent gay rights groups from having access to the UN. Perhaps the Bush administration and the Iranian regime are simply birds of a feather.
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_______________________________________________ Gene C. Gerard has taught history, religion, and ethics for 14 years at several colleges in the Southwest and is a contributing author to the book "Home Front Heroes: Americans during Wartime," by (more...)
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